Stop me if youve heard this one before: A mathematician, a PGA Tour official and Vijay Singh walk into a New Jersey bar . . .Bada Boom.
Welcome to the 2009 edition of FedEx Cup for Dummies. If youve perused this tome before, read on because Version 3.0 of the Tours playoff experiment gets underway on Thursday at Liberty National and will look nothing like the 2008 edition, to say nothing of the 07 inaugural offering which may not even be of the same DNA.
Playoffs ' a misnomer of semantics and perhaps the most glaring problem in the circuits season-long quest ' are, by nature, works in progress. Just ask any baseball traditionalist still lamenting the onset of the wildcard concept or NASCAR fans who eagerly await the annual tweaks to the ever-evolving Race for the Cup.
The next four events are no more a playoff, at least in the traditional sense of the word, than Decembers Q-School is a place of higher education. But in the Tours defense, A four-event race to a big payday doesnt have much of a marketing ring to it.
Playoff is a hard word because you think that there will be eliminations each week, said Jason Bohn, a member of last years Players Advisory Council and one of many architects of the current plan. But if you dont play well one week, you can have a great tournament the next week and be right back in it. Its FedEx Cup triple elimination.
There will be tweaks, but I do like the fact if you play well all year you wont fall out so quickly in the playoffs. If feels like a mini-major.
The Tours greatest attribute in the development of a playoff is a willingness to adjust. As dogmatic as Ponte Vedra Beach can be about certain things ' drug testing, player fines, slow play ' the playoffs have become a Petri dish of ideas.
The only way to have a good idea is to have many ideas, or so the old saw goes, and the creation of a viable post-season in golf has taken a village.
Even Singh, hardly one of the circuits most outspoken or political types, had a take on how the playoffs should be structured when asked on Tuesday.
Every week (you) should be back to zero (points), said the 08 cup champion. You just advance. It's a tournament. It's part of the money list. It's part of the Tour still, and every week should be back to zero. A hundred play or 200 play or whatever and you just cut it down to whatever is necessary, and the last day it's a shootout.
The evolution of the playoffs has a Goldilocks feel to it, with the initial concept (2007) not having enough volatility and last years post-season having too much movement for some. Whether the 09 edition is just right remains to be seen, but at least they are trying.
Field sizes for the four playoff events were trimmed this year to 125 (Barclays), 100 (Deutsche Bank) and 70 (BMW), and the points reset was moved to the week before the Tour Championship to mathematically assure all 30 players at East Lake have a chance at the $10 million pot.
Arm-chair mathematicians have already found a possible flaw in the new math, however, noting that Tiger Woods can win the first three playoff events, as outlandish as that sounds, and could somehow still get beaten in the season-long race with a poor showing at East Lake.
We wanted the Tour Championship to be something where if you had the No. 1 seed, you sort of had something akin to a home court advantage in NBA basketball. You can lose, but you've got an advantage, commissioner Tim Finchem said on Wednesday. The intervals that we set for that first seed provides you an advantage.
By comparison, Singh won the first two post-season events last year and needed to only make four loops around East Lake without tripping over his putter ' a feat, not for nothin as they say in Jersey, he found impossible at Hazeltine National.
There will be more tweaks. Golf World magazine reported earlier this month that Woods, Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els have lobbied Finchem to cut the playoffs to just three events ' if only the NHL had similar-minded stars we might be spared endless post-season hype and a 15-minute off-season. Normally, when the games biggest names speak with one voice action items follow.
There is also a perception problem within the general golf public regarding the Tours infant post-season. The golf calendar has 12 months, four majors, one unforgettable cup (perhaps two, with Octobers Presidents Cup looming) and a healthy supporting cast of events from Dove Mountain to Doral. A shiny silver cup and a steady march of promos dont create big events ' history and actions do.
Like The Players, the playoffs may grow into the must-see event the Tour pines for, but our Twitter society will have to come to grips with the reality that it takes more than 140 characters and three experiments to make a memory.
Woods has signed on for the playoff opener in New Jersey this week for the first time, a symbolic first step if ever there was one, and the new math of a post-BMW reset will assure that a Braves pennant run and University of Georgia football are not the only hot topics in Atlanta come September.
And thats not too shabby, at least until next fall when a host of new tweaks will require the fourth edition of Fedex Cup for Dummies. Buy your advanced copy now, and avoid the rush.